A beloved independent fashion label from Malaysia, SHOPLOOOH, made its way across the causeway onto our shores this September. Marking its entry with the launch of their official Singapore store, http://www.shoploooh.com.sg, the label’s high quality yet affordably priced apparel capturing the hearts of fashion lovers here.
Established in 2013 as a uniquely bilingual online fashion label, SHOPLOOOH presents collections for the contemporary woman, with comfortable and flattering pieces to take her from work week to weekends. Every piece is meticulously designed in-house under the vision and direction of Co-founder and Managing Director, Audrey Goh.
The self-taught designer spent five years studying and working in Singapore as a food technologist before moving back to Malaysia in 2013 to launch the label with her then-fiance Garrick Tan, who was recovering from a devastating accident that left him wheelchair bound. SHOPLOOOH was founded in a bid to reassimilate Garrick back into the working world and has since become a means for Audrey and Garrick to share a message of hope, love, and positivity to everyone.
We spoke to the founder duo to understand more about their journey so far, challenges, highlights, fashion industry trends and more.
TVM: How important is it to support independent fashion brands, especially now, when fashion is among the worst-hit sectors amidst this pandemic?
A&G: Supporting independent fashion brands is also about supporting the creative talents in the region. Independent brands in the creative industry, not only fashion, offer job opportunities and the chance for young talents to showcase their creative flair in the local market. For example, we currently hire more than 10 local talents who support our social media, design, e-commerce, and customer service. If not for the support of our customers, we would not be able to maintain this amazing team.
With borders now closed, it’s more important than ever to support the creative industry and the opportunities independent brands offer to young talents.
TVM: How can the fashion industry at large help independent brands flourish? What has your experience been with key players and stakeholders in the industry?
A&G: Other than fashion week, influencers, celebrities and fashion publications continue to support independent fashion brands. Especially during the lockdown period as the pandemic rages on.
SHOPLOOOH always works to retain and maintain good relationships with KOLs, especially those that display similar values with our brand, frequently interact with their followers and are up-to-date on fashion news and trends. They become the point of reference for many consumers’ fashion consumption. Collaborating with them also helps increase our reach, which in turn helps us grow as an independent brand.
We are also open to collaborating with other brands from different industries such as food, fashion accessories, personal care and more. A strategic collaboration of two brands with similar goals, values, target market and business objectives can benefit both parties. It can be an effective way for both businesses to grow, increase brand awareness and break into new markets. For the customers, this marriage of two brands from different industries creates an interesting shopping experience, making it a win-win situation for both the business and the consumer.
Limited edition releases also help generate a sense of urgency due to the small quantity produced which generally tends to do well.
TVM: At a time when many brands are struggling to cope and survive, expanding into a new market is a great feat. How did you manage to cope during the pandemic and what helped you not only survive but scale as a fashion brand?
A&G: We believe that most of the businesses, ours included, have all been impacted in some way by the pandemic. However, we’re thankful for the continuous support from our loyal customer base, who allowed us to support our entire whole team during this period for which we’re grateful and appreciative.
During this pandemic, we are also working hard to promote our sub-brand HomeByShoploooh to accommodate the existing customer base and cater to the growing trend of home and lifestyle products as customers look to make home living more comfortable.
TVM: The backstory of the time when SHOPLOOOH was founded is touching and inspiring. What was going on in each of your minds and hearts at that time? What kept you going?
G: I was in the prime of my youth and that piece of news felt like looming dark clouds that would never disperse over what was supposed to be a sunny day of my future. The sudden change in life coupled with the various medical complications that followed made me very frustrated and I developed a grim outlook on life. So much to the point where I considered taking my own life.
But I am so very lucky to have my parents and Audrey by my side. They have shed light on my darkest times by giving me unconditional love and support. This traumatic life experience has since made me a person with a stronger mind. I’ve learned to cope and adapt to the changes. Life is always unexpected and full of surprises. I’m now able to face new challenges and issues with a stable state of mind, which has helped a lot, especially during this pandemic.
A: There was a particular day where Garrick said to me ‘Hey, I don’t think I’ll be able to go out and work.‘ That simple sentence made my heart ache with sadness as he used to be a person who loved to be out and about talking to just about anyone, about anything. So I was determined to do something to help him assimilate back into the working world. Since then, we have poured our heart and soul into the brand and it is now a way for us to share a message of hope, love, and positivity to everyone.
TVM: What were some of the main challenges you faced and how did you handle those issues?
G: During the early times when the internet bubble was booming, there were not many other online fashion boutiques. Nowadays, e-commerce has exploded, meaning that competition is fiercer now than ever before which is why we are always working hard to keep our products and services top-notch.
My previous years of experience in sales had allowed me to develop the acumen for trend spotting and customer management which has helped form the foundations of our ever-growing loyal customer base.
I take a lot of inspiration from Amancio Ortega, founder and former chairman of Inditex fashion group, best known for their fashion and retail chain, Zara. I was inspired by Amancio’s story as his journey has not been without its struggles, from his humble origins working in retail to presently being one of the richest men in Europe. He believed in lifelong learning and never letting the arrogance of yesterday’s success get to his head. What I’ve learned from him is that there is never an end to knowledge and it is important not to rest on one’s laurels but instead to keep working hard to achieve greater things.
TVM: After Malaysia, why Singapore? Do you have further expansion plans as well?
G: We’ve always been thinking of bringing SHOPLOOOH’s vibes and philosophy to a broader audience.
We feel a strong connection to Singapore from Audrey’s years here, where she still has classmates and old friends that she regularly keeps in touch with. Besides that, we see a strong demand of about 10% of our orders coming from Singapore. We also spent a lot of time doing extensive market research and database analysis before gaining enough confidence to make the expansion.
There are definitely plans for the business to grow, and we look forward to bringing SHOPLOOOH to more customers when the opportunity arises.
TVM: Audrey is a self-taught designer. Could you share more on your creative process?
A: I love drawing inspiration from many different sources, be it places or people. Because our muse is the everyday woman, I pay attention to everyday things. For example, the weather in Southeast Asia, my friends and family, my love for baking and cooking, and even feedback from our customers.
My personal style – casual and feminine – is influenced by style icons such as Yoyo Cao and Korean fashion trends. This is translated into our designs as I want to share what I love with our customers.
My time in Singapore also helped to elevate my fashion sense as Singapore has people from all over the world. I observed how different people dress up for different functions.
I’m very hands-on with the development and design process and have been since our first self-manufactured pieces. Together with our team, I test each sample piece and make tweaks to the designs where appropriate, and only pieces that meet our standards make the cut.
How is SHOPLOOOH different from other fashion brands?
A&G: We think of ourselves not as fast fashion but as a slower fashion brand. Our focus is not oriented on the number of styles produced or their relevance to current fashion trends, but rather on the design and quality, as we believe in creating great essential pieces that last. Our styles are mainly classic, simple, minimalistic and timeless.
We’re also an inclusive brand, and we strongly believe in “made for all” clothing that can be worn by people of all body shapes and sizes, whenever and wherever. Our sizes run up to XL because we want every girl to feel gorgeous in SHOPLOOOH.
We encourage everyone to be curious and be daring with fashion. After all, it’s about feeling good and looking good.
TVM: Any special message for aspiring entrepreneurs in the fashion industry?
A&G: Don’t be afraid to jump right in and start your climb as a fashion entrepreneur. Just like all other businesses, the fashion business is also one with huge risks and equally huge rewards. In the fashion industry, your passion, commitment and risk-taking capacity are more important than your age.
Follow SHOPLOOOH SG on Instagram at @shoploooh.sg.